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  • Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern , trackback


    Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: after all, its traditional dialect resembles that of Lancashire, yet its houses and customs are more Yorkshire.


    Saddleworth, as many inbetween places, is maverick. In purely geographical terms – but what can geography tell us about the perversities of borders? – Saddleworth should be part of Lancashire: it is on the Lancashire side of the watershed, though there is lots of muttering that the country roundabout seems ‘Yorkshire’. As it happens, Saddleworth was originally administered by the Red Rose, a fact demonstrated by its long time ecclesiastical affiliation to Lancashire. The reasons that its political administration was shifted to the east of the Pennines is not remembered, though it dates back to Norman times and presumably had something to do with a landgrab: think a Breton mercenary with a mace. But the locals resented this move. Certainly, in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century many in Saddleworth were chafing hard against the Yorkshire yoke. This comes out best in the writings of Ammon Wrigley, the bard of Saddleworth, a competent poet and a brilliant essayist. Wrigley (obit 1946) described himself as a Lancashire man born on Yorkshire soil and wrote his poems in Lanky not in the dialect of the Ridings. And while a sensible and charitable individual, AW often gave discreet kicks in the direction of Yorkshire, while aiming his own metropolitan and journalistic efforts, instead, towards the nearby Lancashire town of Oldham.

    ammon wrigley

    This phase of Saddleworth’s history came to an end with the redrawing of the county lines by the Conservative government in 1973/1974: the same government incidentally that brought Great Britain into the European Union. Saddleworth was now removed from Yorkshire and placed, instead, in Greater Manchester, part of what had once been Lancashire. A messy compromise operated whereby the 1974 reforms were classified as being purely administrative and there are road signs to this day – sometimes described as ‘inflammatory’! – stating that Saddleworth is part of Yorkshire to the west, while rates are paid to the east. The mutterings for ‘secession’ began almost immediately in Saddleworth post 1974 and came to a head in the early 2000s. Many Saddleworthians, forgetful of the old animus against Yorkshire, celebrated White Rose day, dreaming of the decree by which Saddleworth would be returned to the West Riding of Yorkshire, its true home. On White Rose Day (yes there is one…) a bouquet of white Yorkshire roses have even been placed around the neck of a statue of Ammon Wrigley, someone who would have jumped off a cliff before describing himself as a tyke. The bottom line is, of course, that the good people of Saddleworth don’t want to belong to Lancashire or Yorkshire, London or Brussels.  They are typical hillfolk stock, with all the hillfolks’ virtues, and in an ideal world they would emulate their Briganti forbears and rule themselves their lovely valleys. And the flag of this ideal world? Beachcombing would vote for a hillwalker’s boot tramping underfoot red and white petals. Other views on Saddleworth: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com